EMV Kernels A History of Chip and PIN

Published: 13th May 2011
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Better known as Chip and PIN devices, EMV Kernels have become a familiar and largely ubiquitous part of modern life. For many of us under the age of 25, the previous system of swiping and signing seems like a distant and dated experience. While we now take them for granted, it is easy to forget the brilliance behind the technology. So let's take a look under the bonnet of an EMV Kernel.

EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard, and VISA, amongst whom the EMV standard represents a joint venture to ensure the highest level of security and global interoperability.

The concept of payment or bank cards is a relatively new one, with the first example developed in France in 1989. This was the Carte Bancaire. In Germany, the Geldkarte was developed in the mid 1990s, and was amongst the first ever instances of such payment cards.

While credit cards had long been in operation the first being created in c.1950 the idea of Chip and PIN found its feet in the 21st century (although the first EMV standard came in to being in 1995). The beginnings are marked by the absorption of Europay International by Mastercard in 2002, followed by the inclusion of JCB in 2004, and of American Express in 2009.

With the main goal of creating a highly secure purchasing environment, the EMV Kernel reduces fraud by removing the need to focus on a visual inspection of the card in order to verify its validity and the authenticity of the cardholder's claim to be the person named on the card.

A further benefit of the EMV Kernel is the reduced time required to make a purchase anywhere, at any time. No longer is it necessary to wait for mechanical card imprinters to be operated, or for a telephone call to be made to the card issuer to verify a transaction over a certain amount. How simple life has become as a result of the Chip and PIN device.

Though the development was and is largely seen as a success of modern technology, many were sceptical at the motives behind the innovation. Initially, it was thought by some that the new method would help alleviate banks of any sense of responsibility for cases of card fraud.

This conclusion was based upon the new protocol that customers were required to prove that they had acted with reasonable care to protect their PIN and card from any security breach. Prior to the widespread usage of the EMV Kernel, banks were liable to reimburse a customer if their signature had been forged; it was not until 2009 that an equivalent piece of legislation was passed to protect Chip and PIN card holders from such fraudulent activities.

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